What comes out of us?

Whatever we value, we set our eyes on and store up. Whatever it is takes our heart and becomes our master. So Jesus said,

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.

Matthew 6:19

When we choose to treasure things apart from Jesus, we fill any space in our hearts where we could treasure the Lord. Jesus builds on this idea-

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other …

Matthew 6:24

This brings me to the bit I find most curious.

The eye is the lamp of the body.

Matthew 6:22

What I choose to keep my eye out for is what I fill my heart with. If I choose to fill my heart with the God of Love, then the love of God will flow from me. That which I fill my heart with, I become. So,

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.

Matthew 12:35

Most things that people set their eyes on are neither good nor bad. However, when we ‘set our eyes’ on them, we make them our idol and our desire for them becomes selfish. This is a desire apart from the love of God and ultimately leads to our storing evil in our hearts and this evil will come out!

What makes a Christian?

What is the difference between a Christian and someone who has yet to receive Jesus? The difference can be seen through what empowers their life: ‘Life’ or ‘death’. Our lives are an arena where these two sources compete to rule and bear fruit in our lives.

… when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions … were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death.

Romans 7:5

Those who have yet to receive the ‘life’ of Jesus are in the realm of the flesh. The tragedy is to see people doing their best, yet however well intentioned, they succumb to their passions, fail to love unconditionally and bare fruit for ‘death’. Likewise, we who have the life of Christ stumble when we choose to feed our passions and bear that same fruit.

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.

Romans 7:4

We escape the power of ‘death’ through identifying with Jesus’ death on the cross; by renouncing allegiance to our sinful passions and receiving his ‘life’ as we identify with his resurrection. Having received his ‘life’ we belong to Jesus and can bear his fruit of love. Fruit must have a source, and only the power of Jesus who is love, can be the source of his fruit.

Brothers who hurt us

How do we relate with those who have hurt us? Most focus on the person and the offence. What happens when we bring in Jesus’ perspective.

Paul wrote a letter to Philemon, whose slave had run away to Paul and through Paul had come to faith. He sends the slave back with an appeal to Philemon for mercy. I have adjusted the letter to make it from Jesus to you, the hurt one, on behalf of the one who has caused you grief. Try reading it, inserting your own name, and the name of the one who caused grief –

To (Your name here),

Grace and peace to you.

I am always thankful when I remember you … accordingly, even though I could command you, for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you. I appeal to you for my child (The name of one causing grief), whose father I have become. I am sending him to you, sending my very heart.  … I prefer to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.

So, if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Jesus, write this with my own hand: I will repay it – to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. Yes, dear one, I want some benefit from you! Refresh my heart through my power.       

Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Jesus

Philemon

Easter Love

Years ago I realised that in a perfect world we would never have been able to grasp, 

“how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”

Ephesians 3:18

Love is seen in the personal cost it is willing to pay to help someone in need. If our whole lives, and the lives of those around us were a paradise of bliss, how could love be demonstrated?

Then I came to-

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial  because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life  that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12

Without trials through which we have the opportunity to persevere, we could not know how wide and long and high and deep is our love for him. We can profess love for Jesus, but until it is proven by sacrificial love for his people here around us, the words are not proven.

Our love has limits and most days life’s circumstances demonstrate them. On the cross Jesus demonstrated that his love has none!

Love revealed

What does this mean …

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.


2 Corinthians 4:10-11

Reading Isaiah 53 brings helpful context.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him … he was despised, and we esteemed him not.


Isaiah 53:2-3

Jesus’ love caused offence to the religiously self-righteous. Our self-righteous secular culture takes offence at any who live out faith ahead of its values. Protection is valued so highly that love is viewed suspiciously; choice is idolised, elevating selfishness. Jesus’ way is despised.

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities.


Isaiah 53:4-5

The way of Jesus may be despised, but his love must be expressed. For many of his people it is expressed by dealing with the emotional fall out of these cultural values. As we carry these infirmities, we are indeed carrying around in our body the death of Jesus. His love is revealed in a myriad of acts of kindness.

What do I trust in?

When things are going wrong, we go to our source of strength –

I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there?

[Psalm 121:1]

Everyone has their mountains from which they expect help. For some it is money, for others, alliances with powerful people, for others it is in their personality.

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!

[Psalm 121:2]

It takes faith to let go of these mountains and depend on our creator. When we are desperate we are tempted towards proven solutions. We have to learn to take God at his word when he says –

He will not let you stumble;

[Psalm 121:3]

Though he might leave us in trouble for longer than we are comfortable, if we hold on to him, he will come through.

the one who watches over you will not slumber.

[Psalm 121:4]

When we have been hard pressed for a time, we are tempted to think God has taken his eye off our situation. How can he care if he sees without acting?

The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade … The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.

[Psalm 121:5-7]

Jesus promised, “I am with you always.” What an encouragement. If we could see the harm he keeps from us, we would be amazed. As it is, we trust him. This is faith. Only as our faith is stretched do we gain resilience to stop depending on our mountains.

Power and Understanding

What would you do with all power and understanding?

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; …

Psalm 147:5

The extent of God’s power is seen through the creation of all things. We see the breadth of it in the galaxies, we see the depth in the sub-atomic particles.

He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.

Psalm 147:4

When God names, he does so with understanding and care. The name is not merely a label. When he gives us a new name, it tells of whom he sees us to be. So, he names the billions of stars with care, describing each one’s specialness.

his understanding has no limit.

Psalm 147:5

Creation also shows his understanding. Knowing all things, he can predict and control events. Our culture is concerned about things on the edge of its understanding such as global warming, political turmoil and the like. The Lord who understands the impact of every CO2 particle and every political decision is not concerned. He could bring everything into balance, if we would humble ourselves to ask.

The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.

Psalm 147:6

Many use power or understanding to engineer or force their will. This however, is wickedness. God’s use of power elevates humility. So, Jesus, having all power, chose humility when he allowed himself to be executed. Only when it was too late did the wicked discover what he had understood, that he was conquering the power of death!

The end of pleasure?

Our western culture could be like this…

Listen to this, you pleasure-loving kingdom, living at ease and feeling secure. You say, ‘I am the only one, and there is no other. [Isaiah 47:8NLT]

Where self-focused complacency develops, a culture becomes conceited and wants everyone to emulate it.

“Come down, virgin daughter of Babylon, and sit in the dust.” [Isaiah 47:1NLT]

Law is symbolised by Egypt. Pleasure seeking is symbolised by Babylon, whose end is not great.

You will be naked and burdened with shame. [Isaiah 47:3NLT]

Ultimately, the Lord lifts the lid and exposes what is within. Arrogance and abuse born of conceit will be exposed.

… your ‘wisdom’ and ‘knowledge’ have led you astray, and you said, ‘I am the only one…’ [Isaiah 47:10NLT]

A culture that grows powerful through knowledge uses that power to exercise its will and elevate itself. It begins to act as if it were a god.

A catastrophe will strike you suddenly, one for which you are not prepared. [Isaiah 47:11NLT]

The Lord shakes everything to prove its permanence. That which is not built on the foundation of Christ will eventually fall.

Where are all your … stargazers who make predictions ..? Let them stand up and save you from what the future holds. But they are like straw burning in a fire. [Isaiah 47:13-14NLT]

The experts make predictions as if they had divine insight. Ultimately, they will be proven fools and those who trust in them will share their fate.
So, what do I build my life on?

Resisting wickedness

When the wicked win the temptation is to use their methods. In succumbing we become wicked. What should we do?

Do not fret because of those who are evil …; for like … green plants they will soon die away. [Psalm 37:1-2]

When the wicked win, anxiety drives towards wickedness. We need Jesus’ perspective. The wicked will not ultimately win and there is a way to Jesus-

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. [Psalm 37:3]

The temptation to win by becoming wicked drives us from the safe place Jesus would have us live in. This dwelling place exists only through trust.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. [Psalm 37:4]

We gain spiritual strength as we choose to delight in Jesus and discover the fulfilment of desires long supressed under the boasts of the wicked.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: he will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. [Psalm 37:5-6]

When we entrust our future to God, he takes us down paths that vindicate us.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, … Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil. [Psalm 37:7-8]

When we are quiet despite the wicked winning, we know we are, trusting, delighting and committing our way to Jesus.

Embrace Trials

I have a bad habit when in difficulty of giving myself permission to behave badly. Paul underwent far greater difficulties. His account of ship wrecks, beatings, facing wild animals and the like make anything I face seem trivial.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. [2 Corinthians 4:8-9NIV]

Yet Paul, instead of using them to excuse bad behaviour saw them as an opportunity to discover the amazing extent of God’s grace.

we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. [2 Corinthians 4:7NIV]

Paul recognises he is not up to the trials, but he does not give up and make everyone else suffer. He prays and looks forward to how God will carry him through.

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, [2 Corinthians 4:10NIV]

Paul understood these trials as a participation in the death of Christ. As we are joined with Jesus in his suffering, we are also joined with him in God’s power.

so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

Jesus does not give immunity from trials but hope in himself. Can we seek him and faithfully endure as we wait for him to intervene? At the far end, looking back, we will realise that we were not up to it, but that he brought us through.